Preventing Feed Shrink

Sep 11, 2020

As we finish up the 2020 silage season and start planning for the next year, feed shrink should be on top of mind. Feed makes up 40-60 percent of the total cost of producing milk, and on average, farms lose 12 percent of feed through shrink. Some of factors that go into shrink are harvest, feed out, and storage type. 

When harvesting wet forages, making sure that they are wet enough to go through fermentation properly and pack well is key. Covering piles or bunks with a plastic that is at least 5 millimeters thick can also help reduce shrink. Research has shown that uncovered piles can have a dry matter loss of 30-40 percent. Packing is also an important factor. It is recommended that for every ton of silage delivered, 800 pounds of pack tractor is required. A 3:1 ratio of height to width has been found to allow for the best packing, without the sides getting too steep. Both packing and covering reduce the amount of oxygen that can get to the feed, which will allow good fermentation and reduce dry matter loss. Many farms will also use an inoculant to speed up and create a better fermentation of the silage. 

Knowing how much of the forage will be fed per day will help when figuring how large of a feed face that can be managed. The general rule of thumb is removing at least 6 inches of forage per day, so understanding how well your feed is packed, and knowing how many tons per foot of pile, bunk, or bag is critical in keeping quality feed. 
Storage type is also a factor in shrink. Bulk ingredients used on farm that are stored in upright bins typically have a 1-2 percent shrink, while bulk ingredients stored in open bays have a 5-15 percent loss. If bulk ingredients are being purchased, and they are dry enough to come out of an upright bin, the difference in shrink when switching away from an open bay can often pay for the new upright bin storage. 

As the dairy industry continues to be tried financially, improving how forages and bulk ingredients are stored and used can save money, and increase quality. If you have any questions about your forages, please call the Allied Cooperative Feed Mill at (608) 786-1102.


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